We’ll Send You on a Fool’s Errand — In a Good Way!

Fool's Errand

Fool's ErrandBy Laurie Street

Whether it’s checking off a grocery list or paying the bills, everyone knows the definition of “errand” all too well. Here at the Fool, we’re familiar with a different kind of chore called “Fool’s Errand,” and it’s definitely not your typical mundane task.

The Fool’s Errand is a special prize — two weeks off and $1,000. So what are the rules? The chosen Fool must leave immediately and have no contact with the office, with the money only available if these guidelines are followed. The generous gift of $1,000 can be used for anything — plane tickets, hotel rooms, skydiving lessons…you name it! Past winners have visited Northern California wineries; Captiva Island, Florida; snowy Vermont; and even the Dominican Republic. Some Fools have simply enjoyed a staycation, but no matter where they go, winners are always encouraged to spend a few hours on our company’s purpose — to help the world invest better. Winners have rebalanced their 401k, managed an educational savings account, or chatted with a parent about retirement preparation.

At the end of each monthly company-wide meeting, approximately ten Fools are chosen at random and entered to win. To be eligible, the Fool must be employed here for at least one year. Names are entered as many times as the number of years each person has worked here, so if a Fool has been around for fifteen years there’s obviously a better chance for a win.

I can assure you that this process isn’t fixed. Names are drawn through a computer generated system, and the live announcement is always entertaining. I once saw the names laid face-down on a table, and a slightly-wonky remote control helicopter chose the winner upon landing. Another time, a Fool member visited with her dogs, and each contender was given a dog treat. Whomever the Labrador ran to first was deemed the winner.

Obviously, the Fool’s Errand fulfills our core value of Fun, but it also fulfills two business purposes. First, even with an unlimited vacation policy, some Fools find it hard to fully disconnect from the office. We want to encourage our employees to take the occasional break. Second, it’s important for any company to be prepared for an employee’s sudden, unexpected absence (illnesses and family emergencies happen). By knowing that we can cover for a Fool who needs to take time off with short notice, we know there are no gaps in our workflow.

If your company would like to try a similar program, you can start small. Maybe offer a random employee a day off as a reward for great work. Show your employees that time off is important — and they’ll return with fresh ideas and greater motivation.

CEO Tom Gardner Now a LinkedIn “Influencer”

LinkedIn Influencer

LinkedIn Influencer
Motley Fool CEO and co-founder Tom Gardner has joined the LinkedIn “Influencer” program. Gardner published his first “Influencer” post, titled “Half Your Employees Hate Their Jobs,” on Wednesday. The post, co-written with Motley Fool columnist Morgan Housel, highlighted three changes organizations should make to improve their workplace cultures.

“Peter Drucker said that culture eats strategy for breakfast,” Gardner wrote. “Get your fork and knife and let’s get to work!”

By joining the “Influencer” program, Gardner enters a community of the world’s most profound and impactful thinkers. Notable LinkedIn “Influencers” include Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, Bill Gates, and more. Gardner plans to write broadly about investing, general business, and other issues he and Motley Fool employees hold dear.

“We’re thrilled for Tom to become a LinkedIn ‘Influencer,’” Fool spokesperson Adrienne Perryman said. “We have a ton of respect for the community LinkedIn has created, and having Tom as a part of it will certainly help us further our mission of helping the world invest better.”

Gardner’s “Influencer” page can be found here, and a full list of “Influencers” can be found here.

Matt Trogdon and Tom Gardner own shares of LinkedIn. The Motley Fool recommends LinkedIn. The Motley Fool owns shares of LinkedIn. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Check Us Out in the Wall Street Journal!

Wall Street Journal

Wall Street JournalWhile we love seeing press about our lack of a vacation policy, encouragement of office fun, and all the other unique things about our workplace, Fools were abuzz this weekend about being recognized by the Wall Street Journal about one thing we hold near and dear: Our Purpose, which is to Help the World Invest Better.

There’s a lot of investing advice out there that advocates doing whatever you can to make a quick buck. But for 20 years, The Fool has taught our members a different investing method – a method that calls for a calm, measured approach to choosing great companies and investing in them for the long term. Recently, three of our subscription newsletters were ranked in the top three of Hulbert Financial Digest’s list of investment-advisory services, and the WSJ wrote about their take on our buy-and-hold strategy.

Because a long time frame works to your advantage when it comes to the stock market, it’s never too early to introduce investing concepts to the next generation. The Fool’s Jason Moser is featured in a different article, offering ways to help even younger children get excited about investing.

We believe that discipline and a long-term view makes investing more meaningful, more fun, and in the end, much more successful!

Match Office Perks to Your Culture

Cool Office

Cool OfficeRecently I’ve noticed a few articles popping up claiming that cool offices and no vacation policy are somehow a myth, a scam, a sneaky way for The Man to keep you down.  Here was the first line of one recent article: “Don’t be fooled by the perks at all those Silicon Valley (and Alley) offices — it’s all just part of a subtle plot to control employee behavior.”  At The Motley Fool we have one of those cool offices and we chose not to enact a vacation policy 20 years ago, so my first reaction is to mail out some peanut butter to go with the author’s jealousy.

The focus of these negative articles is often on the game table, the casual dress, or the non-policy.  Those are the outcome of what a cool office is actually about – trust and autonomy.  None of the fun of a cool office can be provided without the right culture around it.

At The Fool we put a lot of time and energy in to recruiting the best employees.  We are quite picky, we take our time with the hiring process, and we dislike increasing the employee headcount without good reason.  When new hires arrive, we trust them to do what they were hired to do.  We find that when we get out of the way, people choose their own path and create their own way of getting their work done.  They tell us how they like to work and what they need. The fun toys, the desks on wheels, and the flexible hours are all what employees have asked us for.  We aren’t scheming to invent ways to control employees, we’re giving them what they want to work effectively and be happy. If your study is finding that people at a company are taking fewer vacations or working longer hours, it isn’t because of the policy.  The reason is you haven’t built a culture of trust.

I am reminded of a great line I once heard from Libby Sartain, former Southwest Culture guru, “Every Office has a culture.  Every culture isn’t for everyone.  Find the culture that fits you.”

At The Motley Fool, we know who we are, we work hard to find people that will add to our culture, and we look for every opportunity to support our team members.  We do this because it works.  It shows up in all our numbers no matter how you slice them.  For instance, we have the highest employee engagement score by far that I’ve ever seen using the Gallup methodology.

We aren’t The Man plotting to keep our team down and take advantage of them.  We are Fools working for our employees and doing everything we can to unleash them to do their best work how they’d like to do it.

Encourage Employees to Take Much-Needed Vacations

Fool's Errand

Fool's ErrandAt The Fool we have a “take what you need” vacation policy. When we need a sick day, an extra day to get over jet lag, or to travel on off-peak days, no one in HR is counting our vacation time as long as we get our job done. And that line blurs even more as we get more tethered to our iThings. It’s not unusual for a Fool to check email in airports and take calls from home.

So how much vacation do you actually need?  Most Fools take between three and four weeks.  Some years Fools take more, some years we take less. Here’s the flip side: In a job where vacation time is limited, employees often feel like they need to optimize their free time and use all the time they’re allotted. Where vacation time is “free” it’s hard to tell if it’s ever okay to take any. Some Fools don’t really take much at all, and because we are all so connected we often forget to take a break.

To counteract some Fools’ tendencies to never take a vacation, we implemented a unique benefit called “The Fool’s Errand,” a monthly randomized drawing where the winner gets two consecutive, paid, no-contact-with-work weeks off. And it has to be taken within the month. So you’ve got two weeks to plan a two-week vacation and get all your ducks in a row before you leave.

Besides being a great surprise for one Fool each month, there’s also specific business purpose to the Fool’s Errand: It’s a great way to test our sustainability in a fun way. Typically an unplanned absence is a result of something unpleasant like illness, and only then the team learns where the single points of failure are. This way Fools can get a much needed and enjoyable break, while we as a company can make sure everyone is cross-trained in the event someone on our team needs to take time off unexpectedly.

What is your company’s policy on vacation? How do they encourage (or discourage) employees to take vacations and breaks?

Kara Chambers wrote this post before embarking on her very own Fool’s Errand! Her colleagues and her dog miss her very much but we all hope she has fun.